Today I am able to take a few minutes to reflect on the many aspects of my life that I am thankful for.
I have spent most of my life in the opposite way of thinking. No matter how many parts of my life were good I was always stuck in thinking about what I did not have and what could be better. My first clue that this perspective was a problem was when I read a book, The Art of Happiness based on the teachings of the Dali Lama. He pointed out how much more productive it was to compare yourself and your circumstances to those who were less fortunate than it was to think about what you didn’t have.
“Anxiety with Success”
I became aware of another pattern of thinking in midst of my eight-day Hoffman process. It was the “anxiety with success.” The Hoffman process taught me a focused and organized format that allowed me to become aware of my reactive patterns of thinking, then implemented an intense detachment program, and taught me a brilliant set of re-programming tools. The awareness step is critical, as I did not realize how much of my life I took for granted.
I have had a lot of successes and also many failures. One pattern of behavior I had not seen was that I would have some success and then somehow I rarely followed through. Or I would get into a reactive mode and just walk away from a potentially major success. I then spent a lot of time wondering what happened and then beating myself up. All of this was not only a waste of time but consumed a lot of emotional energy.
The behavioral pattern that emerged was that I had extreme “anxiety with success”. I was shocked. I had spent the major part of my waking hours trying to be successful in whatever I attempted yet I was creating a situation that caused intense anxiety. How could this be?
I was the oldest of four children in a household with a difficult mother who suffered from chronic pain. I was the problem-solver in the family since I was about seven years-old. The baseline state of our family was chaos. The Hoffman process taught me to diagram what they term is a vicious cycle. Here is the sequence:
- Chaos (severe and my baseline state)
- Problem-solving/conflict resolution mode (powerful role especially for a child)
- Problem solved (I felt like a hero)
- Period of calm (anxiety ensued in that we did not know how long it would last)
- Need for chaos (if it doesn’t occur I will create it)
- Chaos (comfort zone)
Becoming aware of this sequence allowed me to use tools to process each step of this cycle. However I was not as effective at dealing with the “anxiety of success” as I was with other patterns. As I continued to work with my teacher, Kani Comstock, she pointed out something that allowed me to finally enjoy my successes. It was gratitude.
I have endured a lot and so have most of you. Chronic pain with all of its many layers is not a small problem. I first have a deep sense of gratitude that I am personally no longer experiencing chronic pain. Additionally I have been able to figure out what factors contributed what I feel is almost a miracle and that I am able to share them with you.
It Has Been Worth It
Although I have seen hundreds of patients become pain free this is not a numbers game with me. Even if my life experience allowed just one of my patients to achieve a pain free state, it has all been worthwhile. Every time a patient comes in excited about their relief of pain I am still fascinated and somewhat in disbelief. At my core I am a surgeon and I don’t understand all of the variables that cause this to happen. Not only do they become pain free, but also they rapidly begin to recreate the life that they had lost and go well beyond what they had. This last year I have seen two patients have their spouses come back to them and create a thriving relationship.
That I have been able to contribute to any part of their healing is a gift to me that I never would have imagined.